One of the things that really struck us when we were in New Orleans last week was just how friendly everyone was. Walking down the street entailed at least a handful of strangers not only saying, “Hello,” with a smile, but also often asking, “How’s it going?”
I generally find Tucsonans to be pretty friendly. Maybe I’m biased. From my travels, I know that we’re certainly a lot more outwardly friendly and chatty compared to the East coast. Riding on a subway in New York? Fugghetaboudit. Avoid eye contact at pretty much all costs. (Please note: I love New York, I love New Yorkers, I’ve had lots of strangers there be very kind to me, but generally not the city’s forte on the streets.) Here, it’s safe to say you can get a lot of smiles back or “hi”s if you want.
But NOLA? Holy smokes, it was like we were part of the family. Here are some examples that all happened in one day; after all, it’s important to supply concrete details to support this thesis (right, rhetoric students?!):
- On our ferry day, we were waiting for the boat to arrive. A number of people were milling about, chatting with whomever they had come: teenage girls, an elderly pair of women, a 30-something couple. We’re standing there, being silly and talking with each other when the woman from the 30-something couple comes up to us and says, “How far can you bend your thumb back?” At first I couldn’t actually understand her, and wasn’t sure if she was crazy, but Boris had and starts looking at his thumb. I finally realized what had happened and we had a lengthy conversation about thumbs and double-jointedness, which turned to their asking us what we were up to, and giving us the low down on Algiers. I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had invited us to tag along with them on their day, too.
- On that same day, just as we had crossed the river we were meandering along Rue Louis Armstrong, the path that runs along the river and gives details about Jazz greats. A middle-aged couple walking a couple dogs goes by. I don’t even know how they started talking to us (and by us, I mean Boris, who, despite the beard & muscles is one of the most approachable people on the planet). The husband told us to walk along Delamonde, that it was a nice street to see, and that there was a church with a park next to it. They asked where we were from, where we were going, whether we liked it in New Orleans. They revealed to us that they were transplants, and had moved there five years ago and there was no end in sight! Off we went, then, to check out their recommendation of the church/park combo.
- Walking along Delamonde, I was further ahead admiring the homes and Boris was behind taking photos. There was a man sitting on a front porch across the street. From across the street, he greets Boris, asks how things are going. Boris replies with a question about directions to the church, and the man runs across the street to answer him. Runs! Apparently his radio was on and he couldn’t hear the question. They had an entire exchange during which the man said he was visiting his father for his 90th birthday, he was from Ohio, asked where we were from, etc. etc. When we were walking back to the ferry about an hour later, we passed by and met his entire family sitting on the porch. We also got a chance to wish his father–who looked great!–a happy birthday.
I’m going to venture to say that those actions are not isolated; in fact, they are the norm. Maybe it was just that I had never experienced Southern hospitality. Is that what it was? I can’t say, I suppose, as I haven’t traveled much yet in the south, which I’m hoping to change. I can say that Texas is friendly, but definitely not that out-of-the-way friendly. We ultimately concluded that it was the city itself that had this wonderful part of it, welcoming everyone and wanting to make sure everyone saw the best of it.
Which got me thinking….what are other really friendly places I’ve visited? Minnesota came to mind. Portland is pretty open. I’ve heard that Orvietani have a reputation for being cold, but most of my life spent in Orvieto was filled with warm and welcoming people.
What do you think? What were some of the friendliest places you’ve visited?